Saturday, October 09, 2004


If books are the food of the spirit, then play on! This was my intoxicated feeling when I unexpectedly discovered a grand book fair in the big Lenox Mall on a trip which had only been intended as an opportunity to sate our senses, first with lip smacking food, and then with a decent movie. The 'American Association of University Women' (may providence always be ingratiated to them!) had put up an annual book sale. The prices of the books ranged from a non-realistic 50c to a god forbidding price of 4$. There were literally thousands of books, both old and new, adorning the makeshift book shelves. Science fiction, History, Science and Medicine, Law, Literature, Romance and Child care, every category was given generous attention and space. I am going to make another foray hopefully before it closes next week. But for now, here were the gems I managed to extract from those heaps of knowledge:
1. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (a true landmark)- Thomas Kuhn
2. Those Inventive Americans- National Geographic
3. Night- Elie Wiesel
4. The Fifties (a broad look at that remarkably interesting decade through the lenses of some of the period's most prominent photographers)
5. The COMPLETE (that is, really complete) Sherlock Holmes
Armed with this windfall, I was ready for any agonizing experience that may have followed. But the day was kind to us. Cajun food and the entertaining 'Shark Tale' capped off a refreshing and satisfying excursion.

Except for one disturbing distraction. After preciously gathering the books together, I was walking home past the North Druid Hills High School late in the evening, when I saw a very long limo pull up to the school's entrance. Apparently, there was some function going on, maybe a prom. From inside came the noises of partying and dancing. Just out of curiosity, I stopped for a few minutes to see what kind of creatures of comfort would emerge from the inside of that grand display of wealth. What I did see was both obvious and typical. A gaggle of smirking teenagers, some of them holding wine glasses trotted out of the limo and into the building. Probably some rich kid and his friends, I thought, and proceeded on my way. But then, at the intersection of the next road, I saw a police car blocking the road to other vehicles. Curious to know what had happened, I set off walking further. A gloomy scene met my eyes. Three police cars were parked on the road, and many people were standing on the sidewalk. Two women were crying. There had been a terrible accident. Twisted around an electric pole was what had probably been a car. It had been mangled so dreadfully that you could hardly make that out. Strangely, one side light was still on. Lying next to the car was a body covered by a white cloth. I got into conversation with a man nearby. He said that it was a teenager who had been racing his friend in another car. The car had swerved completely out of control. The result was for everyone to see. 'So sad and stupid', he said.
At that moment, what struck me the most was the incongruity of the two events I had witnessed right one after the other. One event, full of life and youth and happiness, the next one, full of tragedy, again involving that very youth. Was the unfortunate teenager on his way to the same function in the school? The facts are not out yet. What a curiously weird world we live in. If, everyday, we could really learn about all happenings, even in our town, it would be so difficult for us to pit the balance of good vs bad, happy vs sad. I happened to experience this incongruity today. Everyone does some day or the other. Really, quite weird...


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